Archive for February, 2011

What is air gap?

This item was filled under Economy, Facts, Maritime Transportation, Technology
The NOAA Air Gap system is a tool that measures the clearance between the water surface and the bridge....

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A new vessel for the Arctic

This item was filled under Climate
A new kind of vessel is being specially designed to tolerate the tough, frigid conditions in the Arctic to allow for the repair and maintenance of sub sea installations....

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Arctic environment during an ancient bout of natural global warming

This item was filled under Climate
Scientists are unraveling the environmental changes that took place around the Arctic during an exceptional episode of ancient global warming. Around 56 million years ago there was a period of global warming called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, during which global sea surface temperatures increased by approximately 5°C. The warming of the oceans led to profound ecological changes, including the widespread extinction of many types of foraminifera, tiny single-celled organisms with distinctive shells....

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Ocean currents cause microbes to filter light

This item was filled under Climate
Paul Matisse's glass-enclosed liquid sculptures contain an object whose movement through the liquid creates whorls that can be seen only because elongated particles trailing the object align with the direction of the current; light reflects off the particles, making the current visible to the viewer. Researchers have recently demonstrated that this same phenomenon is responsible for the swirling patterns scientists typically see when they agitate a flask containing microbes in water; many microbes are themselves elongated particles that make the whorls visible....

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75 Percent of Coral Reefs Under Threat [What's New]

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Seventy-five percent of the world's coral reefs are currently threatened by local and global pressures, according to a comprehensive analysis released by the World Resources Institute, along with the Nature Conservancy, the WorldFish Center, the International Coral Reef Action Network, Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, the UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Center, and a network of more than 25 partner organizations, including NOAA.

For the first time, the analysis includes threats from climate change, including warming seas and rising ocean acidification.

The most immediate and direct threats arise from local sources, which currently threaten more than 60% of coral reefs. Local threats include impacts from fishing, coastal development, and pollution. Left unchecked, the percent of threatened reefs will increase to more than 90% by 2030 and to nearly all reefs by 2050.

Visit NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program for more on this report, including links to social media resources and supporting video.

"Reefs at Risk Revisited" was launched globally on Wednesday, February 23, 2011 with events in Washington, D.C.; London, England; Malaysia; Australia; and other locations. Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator was the featured speaker at the D.C. event at the National Press Club. This event also featured presentations by Jonathan Lash, President, WRI; Lauretta Burke, lead author, WRI; and Dr. Nancy Knowlton, Chair of Marine Science, Smithsonian Institution.

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Migrating sea turtles have magnetic sense for longitude

This item was filled under Climate
From the very first moments of life, hatchling loggerhead sea turtles have an arduous task. They must embark on a transoceanic migration, swimming from the Florida coast eastward to the North Atlantic and then gradually migrating over the course of several years before returning again to North American shores. Now, researchers have figured out how the young turtles find their way....

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Holly Bamford Named as NOS Deputy Assistant Administrator [What's New]

This item was filled under News
Dr. Holly Bamford has been named deputy assistant administrator (DAA) for the National Ocean Service.  

“Dr. Bamford brings a unique set of skills that make her particularly well qualified for this position. She is both a strong scientist and an excellent manager. I am delighted that Dr. Bamford will bring her expertise and enthusiasm to the job as deputy assistant administrator,” said NOS assistant administrator David Kennedy.

“It’s an honor to have been selected for this position,” said Dr. Bamford. “The National Ocean Service boasts a diverse portfolio of excellent programs that serve Americans every day. NOS translates science into action, delivering the information, tools, and technical services needed to support healthy communities and economies.” Dr. Bamford earned a Ph.D. in the field of organic environmental chemistry, quantifying the physical and chemical processes that control the transport and fate of organic contaminants.  During her graduate training, Dr. Bamford spent much of her time in the field and on research vessels gathering data in support of her research.  During this time, she spent a year as a guest researcher at the National Institute of Standards and Technology developing analytical methods to detect trace organic contaminants in water and air particles.  Dr. Bamford has a number of peer-reviewed publications that have been widely referenced in the field of environmental chemistry and water quality, including papers in Environmental Science & Technology, Atmospheric Environment, and Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry.  In her first position at NOAA, Dr. Bamford served as a senior member of the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research executive scientific support team.   

In addition, Dr. Bamford brings significant leadership and management expertise—skills that were first honed as an undergraduate studying business management. As the director of NOAA’s Marine Debris Program in the Office of Response and Restoration, Holly brought national recognition to issues related to marine debris and to the program, accomplishments that were recognized with a NOAA Administrator’s Award in 2008. Through her work as Marine Debris Director and Division Chief, Dr. Bamford has served on a number of scientific and advisory committees and presented at a number of national and international meetings, academic institutions, as well as addressed the public through national media outlets including CNN, ABC, NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Good Morning America, Rolling Stone, People, and the Wall Street Journal. 

Dr. Bamford also served as acting deputy assistant administrator for NOS for much of 2010. During this time, she led a comprehensive review of headquarters functions to identify efficiencies. 

Throughout her academic and federal service, Dr. Bamford has received a number of prestigious awards for the demonstration of exceptional management, leadership, and partnership skills, including a NOAA Bronze Medal, NOAA Administrator’s Awards, Coastal America Presidential Partnership Awards, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Gulf Guardian Award. She was recognized by the Washington Post in February, 2010, under the Federal Player Profile. 

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New England, Mid-Atlantic beaches eroding, losing 1. 6 feet per year on average

This item was filled under Climate
An assessment of coastal change over the past 150 years has found 68 percent of beaches in the New England and Mid-Atlantic region are eroding, according to a new report. Scientists studied 650 miles of the New England and Mid-Atlantic coasts and found the average rate of coastal change was negative 1.6 feet per year. Of those beaches eroding, the most extreme case exceeded 60 feet per year....

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NOAA and Partners Prepare to ‘Raise the Bar’ in Wildlife Forensics [What's New]

This item was filled under News
Wildlife forensics experts from NOAA, the Society for Wildlife Forensic Sciences, and other organizations convened last week at NOAA’s Marine Forensics Laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina, for the inaugural meeting of the Scientific Working Group for Wildlife Forensics (SWG-WILD). The experts established the SWG (pronounced “swig”) in response to a 2009 report from the National Academy of Sciences that criticized certain forensics premises and techniques as scientifically unreliable.

Biologist Kathy Moore, chairperson of SWG-WILD, specializes in marine forensics at NOAA’s Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research in Charleston. Explaining that the NAS report focused on human forensics, she and her colleagues in wildlife forensics were still concerned that its findings might undercut their testimony in courts of law. As a result, they teamed up to set standards meant to bolster the quality and credibility of scientific evidence that they present in criminal and civil trials.

Pending Legislation to Protect People and the Economy “We are working on a number of fronts to prepare the wildlife forensics community for the impacts of upcoming legislation,” says Moore.

She is referring to Senate Bill 132, the Criminal Justice and Forensic Science Reform Act of 2011, sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The bill, which aims to ensure consistency and scientific validity in forensic testing, would require the nation’s forensic scientists and labs – whether they work with human or animal evidence – to be certified in their disciplines and conduct their work in accredited laboratories.

In addition to protecting the personal rights of U.S. citizens, the legislation is intended to fend off an ever-growing assault on the U.S. economy: Trade in illegal wildlife. The profits from this clandestine commerce run well into billions of dollars per year, and it could be the third-largest black market after drugs and weapons.

In terms of marine life, the trade includes deliberately mislabeled seafood, unlawful fishing practices, and the poaching of threatened and endangered species. In her Charleston lab, Moore and her co-workers routinely analyze the evidence for such cases on behalf of NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Law Enforcement. It is the only program in the United States dedicated to the forensic analysis of marine species.

The Significance of Certification The principle goal of SWG-WILD’s first meeting was for the experts to reach consensus on certification and standards of practice in wildlife forensics. At present, only three wildlife labs in the country are accredited, and there is no program for certification in wildlife forensics.

Moore and her SWG colleagues are interested in changing that, not only because future legislation would likely require it, but also because it ensures that the science used by the courts is accurate and unbiased.

As an example, Moore points to the fact that she was recently trained and proficiency tested in ivory identification by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Forensics Laboratory. In most cases, she must identify the remains of marine creatures through DNA and other time-consuming genetic tests.

“It’s obviously much easier to ID the tooth of a sperm whale morphologically [by sight] than genetically,” Moore says.

Third-party proficiency testing also bolsters analysts’ credibility in court when testifying as to the species of origin of teeth from whales and other marine animals.

Moore is also working with the Society for Wildlife Forensic Sciences to include some marine fish in its current proficiency tests for DNA species identification so that NOAA scientists can be tested by an independent party.

“Whether or not the proposed legislation passes, certification and accreditation will be necessary in the not-too-distant future,” she concludes. “We need to be prepared to raise the bar for the field of wildlife forensics as a whole.”

Other SWG-WILD members and observers represent Canada’s Trent University Department of Forensics and Functional Genomics; U.S. Fish and Wildlife National Forensic Laboratory; Wyoming Game and Fish Wildlife Forensic and Fish Health Laboratory; University of Maine Molecular Forensics Laboratory; NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center; Federal Bureau of Investigation mtDNA Unit; University of California Davis Veterinary Forensics Genetics Laboratory; and National Institute of Standards and Technology Office of Law Enforcement Standards.

For More Information NOS Marine Forensics Program

NOAA Center for Coastal Environ...

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Lost Whaling Shipwreck Discovered in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands [Feature]

This item was filled under News
Maritime heritage archaeologists working with NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries recently found the wreckage of a famous 1800s Nantucket whale ship, Two Brothers. The wreckage was located on a reef off French Frigate Shoals, nearly six hundred miles (966 kilometers) northwest of Honolulu, in the remote Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument....

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